There is no question that consumers are increasingly seeking out ripe pears in the produce department. And Yakima, WA-based Rainier Fruit Co. is expanding its ripening program to meet this demand.
“Ripe pear sales have seen an upward trend the last few years,” Director of Marketing Suzanne Wolter told The Produce News. “We continue to experience growing demand for our ripe pears and strongly believe there is tremendous growth potential for ripened D’Anjou pears.”
“Rainier Fruit was instrumental in pushing to establish industry guidelines for the ripe pear process, which the industry adopted in the spring of 2011,” Wolter continued. “As an early adopter, we built pear-specific ripening rooms in 2005 to develop better consistency and quality with our program. We have positioned ourselves as the market leader in this program helping our retailers execute successful sales strategies, ultimately selling more pears.”
Rainier will once again make merchandising display units available to showcase ripe pears. “These units create awareness for consumers about the flavor and provide a secondary location for pears,” she said. “Pears are an impulse item. So visibility and product placement is critical to increase volume and dollar sales.”
The company is already lining up new retailers this season for its ripening program.
“Additionally, those already on the program are looking to ‘relaunch’ to increase consumer awareness of the incredible flavor experience when eating a ripe and juicy D’Anjou pear,” Wolter said. “Along with in-store marketing efforts, education of store employees is important. We’re working with retailers to determine the best method to help them communicate information to store associates. Last year, we put information on the jiffy pad included in the packed pear box. Retailers are starting to take notice and let their associates know there is a wealth of product knowledge information being delivered to them daily.”
Both conventional and organic pears are grown and marketed by Rainier. “Our organic pear volume, as a percent of the overall volume, continues to grow and volume is up over last year,” she added.
Production conditions this season have been good, and Wolter said the harvest will ramp up a week earlier than it did in 2012.
“The Bartlett harvest is starting the first week of August, D’Anjou in late August, and Bosc in early September,” Wolter said. “Quality looks good, with sizing about the same or slightly larger than last year depending on the orchard location. Bartlett’s estimated peak size is on 90s. Expect similar size on some other varieties.”
Rainier expects its pear volume will be up this season when compared to 2012.
On the export side, Wolter is excited about the opening of the Chinese market to American pears.
“We’re getting paperwork in order to participate in this new market,” she stated.